RTI Amendment Bill Passed By Parliament

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The Bill changes the fixed term of the Information Commissioners, and make their pay and service conditions subject to the executive rules to be made by the government.

Parliament approved an amendment to the RTI Act that gave the government powers to decide salary and service terms of the statutory body head and its members, with Rajya Sabha passing it by a voice vote.

While the Lok Sabha had passed The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on Monday, the Rajya Sabha gave its approval on Thursday after opposition walkout over what it said was “intimidation” tactics by treasury benches to influence voting on the motion to send the bill to a Select Committee for greater scrutiny.

While Deputy Chairman Harivansh asked Ramesh to go back to his seat, the House plunged into a turmoil as Congress members Viplove Thakur and others tried to snatch the vote slips from hands of Ramesh and others opposition members rushed into the Well shouting slogans against such strong arm tactics.

“In Parliament, ministers intimidate opposition leaders. This is our charge. Ruling party members get signatures from members who do not understand the process. You want to convert Parliament into a government department,” he said.

With empty opposition benches, the Bill was passed by a voice vote.

The RTI Act, which was passed by Parliament on June 15, 2005 and came into force on October 13, 2005, sets out a regime that allows citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority.

This Act allowed a five year term or until the age of 65, whichever is earlier. The amendment proposes that the appointment will be “for such term as may be prescribed by the central government.”

In the original Act, the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) was paid as much as the Chief Election Commissioner and the Information Commissioners were paid as much as Election Commissioners. The amendment provides for salaries to be prescribed by the Centre. These amendments, critics said, have wide-ranging ramifications as instead of fixing salaries and tenure by law, “bureaucrats” will decide on a case-by-case basis. This dilutes job security and makes information commissioners vulnerable to whims and fancies of the ruling establishment